Saadat Hasan Manto. Bombay Stories.
Saadat Hasan Manto. Bombay Stories. Trans. Matt Reeck & Aftab Ahmad.
Vintage, 2014. 246 pp. Paper: $16.00.
Saadat Hasan Manto, known as an important Urdu writer of Partition, has nonetheless been largely overlooked as a major modernist more broadly. His frequently anthologized stories, such as "Toba Tek Singh," detail the brutality of mid-century South Asian politics, but they also express the alienation, disembodiment, absurdity, banality, and irony endemic in the writing of his generation (e.g., Camus, Beckett, Nabokov, Ellison). Bombay Stories, a much-needed new collection of Mantos writing, separates itself from conventional approaches to Manto by focusing on Bombay, the city he adored. Manto lived in Bombay between 1936-1941 and 1942-48; he didn't leave immediately after Partition but stayed until his dismissal from the Bombay film industry, when he moved to Pakistan, felt adrift, and died of alcoholism in 1955 at the age of forty-three. Manto wrote after arriving in Lahore in 1948, "I am a walking, talking Bombay. Wherever I happen to be, that is where I will make a world of my own ... I loved the city then as I love it today." Manto explores this personal relationship to Bombay throughout Bombay Stories, particularly with stories such as "Barren" and "Rude," which feature a Manto-as-character managing his life as a writer, husband, and communist. He does so with sketches of the so-called immoral or dispossessed--characters who are uncertain, lost, or confused--moving ordinary and overlooked lives to the fore. Until recently, Khalid Hasan was responsible for translating the bulk of Mantos work into English, but this edition by Matt Reeck & Aftab Ahmad crucially calls attention to Mantos continued relevance and his significance as one of the great late modernists. [STEFANIE SOBELLE]